School food global hub

Ecuador has a school meal programme that supplies pre-packaged fortified foods to primary and secondary schoolchildren. On-site meal preparation is currently being piloted in several schools. School cafeterias (“bares escolares”) also serve other foods, which must meet certain mandatory nutritional criteria. 

School Food

School meals

Ecuador has had a school meal programme since 1999, which is led by the Ministry of Education and implemented by the National Educational Authority in coordination with the Health Authority and the Agrarian Authority at the national level. Currently, the programme covers approx. 2.8 million students from 12,800 primary and secondary schools in the country. 

In 2015, the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Education published a series of mandatory regulations and measures to regulate the sale of snacks in school cafeterias. Some of the snacks that can be found are “chochos” with toasted corn, green plantain empanadas, “chifles”, cheese empanadas, sandwiches, fruit yoghurt, etc. 

 Additionally, in 2020 the school feeding law was published. Its main objectives are to: 

  • Ensure that the human right to adequate food and permanent endowment for school-aged girls, boys and adolescents is fully exercised; 
  • Contribute to the prevention and eradication of malnutrition, through the promotion of healthy eating habits in the school; 
  • Ensure the safety, quality and control of food that is sold and distributed in schools; 
  • Execute actions for improving the nutritional status of girls, boys and adolescents who attend schools; 

  • Promote healthy eating habits in school-aged children and adolescents; 

  • Guarantee that the girls, boys and adolescents who attend schools incorporate healthy and adequate food and drinks into their diet, following the dietary guidelines issued by the National Health Authority that must be available within the school premises; 

  • Incorporate healthy food and water into school meals that meet the nutritional requirements of girls, boys and adolescents according to their age; 

  • Promote that food and beverages offered in schools conform to the food health guidelines issued by the National Health Authority; and 

  • Include school meals that incorporate produces from rural, “Montubia” and Afro-Ecuadorian agriculture and that are fair trade. 


The school feeding law is applicable throughout the National Education System and regulates the activities related to food and nutrition of children and adolescents from pre-primary to grade 10 of Basic General Education and secondary schoolchildren from public and private institutions. 

The school meal programme is implemented through two modalities: the general modality, in which a solid and liquid ration is daily supplied to all public schools nationwide; and the territorial modality, in which fresh products are prepared for rural schools with family participation.  In this modality, the menus are prepared weekly following the general recommendations from the school meal programme nutritionists, and considering local food produced by farmers in the area. Nutritionists within NGOs supporting the implementation of the pilot projects are in charge of reviewing the menus before they are rolled out. Families organize to prepare meals directly in the schools or privately hire a cook. The territorial modality has been piloted in 118 schools. 

The rations provided through the general modality consist of five different “food and drink packages” prepared and fortified with vitamins and minerals (Vit A, D, E, C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vit B6, Niacin, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, etc.) following WHO fortification safety guidelines. In 2023, these combinations are in the process of review and update. Eleven “food and drink packages” are expected to be implemented by the end of 2023. 

The technical sheets of these products, which detail their characteristics, nutritional values and safety conditions, are prepared by the National Educational Authority, the Agrarian Authority and the decentralized autonomous governments, following the nutritional requirements established by the National Health Authority (entity belonging to the Ministry of Public Health) and taking as a reference the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines of the Ecuadorian population.  

Updates in recent years within the school meal programme and the supply of these pre-packaged products address changes in the caloric percentage of food rations (for example, increase from 500 ml of milk to 600 ml), improvements in the contribution and protein composition (supply of cereals, Andean tubers, legumes of high biological value) and the experiences provided by the pilot projects in this area. 

The “food and drink packages” that are currently supplied within the school meal programme general modality include the following: 

PRODUCTFood and drink package 1Food and drink package 2Food and drink package 3Food and drink package 4Food and drink package 5
Liquid ration/drink200 ml of Ecuadorian UHT whole milk (not flavoured) 200 ml juice, nectar or Ecuadorian fruit drink in at least 4 flavours 200 ml Ecuadorian ultra-pasteurized whole milk with flavours 200 ml Ecuadorian ultra-pasteurized milk-based drink with cereals in at least 2 varieties200 ml Ecuadorian ultra-pasteurized milk-based drink with cereals in at least 2 varieties
Solid ration/snack25g bar of 1 or more farinaceous Ecuadorian cereals, in at least 2 varieties30 g “masa horneada de sulce o sal” based on flour of 1 or more farinaceous Ecuadorian cereals or legumes in at least 2 varieties 30 gr “bocadito de sal” made with flour of 1 or more farinaceous cereals, or legumes, or Ecuadorian seeds, or granola of farinaceous Ecuadorian cereals in at least 2 varieties 25 g bar of 1 or more farinaceous Ecuadorian cereals, in 2 varieties 
Energy (Kcal)200-280230-280200-280200-280100-130


Regarding the monitoring of the programme at the school level, for the general modality, there is a school feeding committee, made up of the highest authority of the school, two representatives of the student council and two representatives of the central committee of parents, who is in charge of ensuring the proper use, handling, service and conservation of products intended for school feeding. The territorial modality, being piloted in a limited number of schools, does not yet have this organizational structure. At the national level, the National Health Authority, through its decentralized units and in coordination with the National Education Authority, monitors the growth of schoolchildren that are part of the school meal programme at the beginning and end of the school year (weight, height, general check-up and follow-up).  

The government plans to expand the territorial modality to all schools where there is the institutional capacity to do so, leaving the general modality only for schools with a wide geographical dispersion or with special needs that justify it. 

Through FAO-Brazil's cooperation with the Sustainable School Feeding Network (RAES) support has been given to the school meal programme through technical training and exchange of experiences. In 2021, a pilot project for the supply of fresh fruit was carried out in 96 schools in the Canton of Portoviejo. Currently, FAO Ecuador is working on scaling this initiative to five additional cantons. 

Sale of food in schools 

According to the mandatory regulations and measures to regulate the sale of snacks in school cafeterias (2015): 

  • In schools, the time allocated for the break has been established, so that they can eat a light meal (snack) and safe water will be offered free of charge. 
  • The snack should be part of a normal diet, containing preparations that are usually consumed between meals, that is, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and provide food from all groups. The snack must combine a portion of food from each group, for example, a dairy product with a cereal and fruit, cereal, legume, vegetable, cereal or tuber, meat and vegetables. 
  • The preparations offered for school snacks must cover 10% of the energy and macronutrient requirements of children in pre-primary level (3 to 4 years old) and 15% for students in Basic and Secondary Education: 

Nutritional requirements of children and adolescents 

Age (years)Energy (kcal)Energy (kcal)Protein (gr)Protein (gr)Fat (gr)Fat (gr)Carbohydrates (gr)Carbohydrates (gr)

3 to 41,252125474,741,74,2172,217,2
5 to 91,631244,748,97,354,48,2224,333,6
10 to 182764,3414,682,912,492,113,8386,157

Source: Human Energy Requirements: Report of a joint FAO/UNU Expert Consultation 2001 

  • The portions offered in the school cafeteria must be in accordance with the age of the student. Below are the serving sizes by food group. 


FoodBoys/girls from 5 to 11 years oldBoys/girls from 5 to 11 years oldAdolescents 12-18 years oldAdolescents 12-18 years old
 Household measurementPortion (ml or gr)Household measurementPortion (ml or gr)
Cow Milk1 glass2401 glass240
Fresh Cheese1 ½ ounce451 ½ ounce45
Natural Yoghurt1 glass2401 glass240
Drinks1 glass2401 glass240
Passion fruit 
1 medium unit80 1 medium unit80
Claudia3 units803 units80
½ cup (chopped)751 cup (chopped)150
Custard apple 
½ cup 751 cup150
Tree tomato 
1 glass 

3 tablespoons of fruit 

1 glass 

3 tablespoons of fruit 

2 medium units2003 medium units250
Ocas4 medium units 5 medium units 
Mellocos6 medium units 8 medium units 
Rice4 tablespoons40½ cup80
Quinoa Corn 
1 tablespoon101 tablespoon10
Noodle (main dish)2/3 cup1002/3 cup100
White, wholemeal bread 
1 small unit401 medium unit60
Green banana 
Pink banana
1 small unit801 medium unit150
raw in 
1/2 bits 
cooked or in 
1/2 cup puree 
100raw in 
1/2 bits 
cooked or in 
1/2 cup puree 
Kidney tomato 

raw in sheets 

1 cup


raw in sheets

1 cup



2 ounces603 ounces90
Billy goat 
2 ounces603 ounces90
Chicken3 ounces90 5 ounces150
2 ounces603 ounces90
Chicken egg, which is equivalent to 3 of 
quail egg 
1 unit50 grams1 unit50 grams
4 tablespoons407 tablespoons70
3 tablespoons301/4 cup60


Food processed with a graphic system with low content (green colour) and medium content (yellow colour) of critical components such as salt, sugar and fat. 
Solid food: 20-30 gr
Liquid food: 200-240 ml

Source: Internal Management of the Promotion of Nutrition, Security and Food Sovereignty 2014 


If school cafeterias have industrially processed foods for sale, they must bear a printed label indicating their high, medium, or low sugar, fat, and salt content, following the regulations on labelling processed foods for human consumption that apply throughout the country. 

The regulation also prohibits companies that manufacture or distribute processed or ultra-processed food and beverages from marketing or advertising activities within schools (for example, launch activities, and promotion of their products).  

To ensure compliance with this regulation, there is a school cafeteria committee made up of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Health and the Health Regulation and Control Agency. Likewise, training is carried out for those responsible for school cafeterias, on healthy eating issues, as well as awareness-raising events with the communities around the schools. 

School-Based Food and Nutrition Education

Relevant links



In 2020, at the initiative of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger of Ecuador, with the support of the Youth Parliamentary Front Against Hunger of Ecuador, and with FAO’s technical assistance, the Ecuador National Assembly adopted a Law on School Feeding (available in Spanish: